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It's All About Relationships

by Julie Griffin, MD
Today's Christian Doctor - Spring 2011

It had been a busy week. Admissions and consultations filled up Monday. Administrative appointments and paperwork filled Tuesday. I left before the sun rose on Wednesday for a meeting in St. Louis. Thursday morning I awoke and proceeded to stand perfunctorily in the check-in, security, and seating lines at the airport. I was home for a brief hour before I was due at the local community outreach clinic. I grabbed my stethoscope and headed off to my next engagement.

That’s when I met Angie. She was the last patient of the day, the one with the most difficult situation. After a brief conversation, her shy eyes looked into mine as I handed her the prescription for an antidepressant. She was grateful for the prescription, and I was glad to finally have the day’s work done. As she turned to leave, the Lord asked me, “Is that piece of paper all you have to offer?” A simple, yet salient question. “No, Lord,” I responded.

I jumped up to catch her. “Angie, you are dealing with so much. Can I pray with you before you go?” I asked. She looked up at me with inquisition on her face, hardly believing my question. Then, she placed her hands in my outstretched palms, and I started our prayer, “Dear Lord, you know Angie’s heart and her situation . . . ”

Why do we do what we do? The answer is simple. The Christian physician’s scriptural mandate in Luke 10:9 is clear: to preach the Gospel of Jesus and be the vector of His healing power in the hearts and minds of all those he or she encounters. Beyond the meetings, appointments, and medical journals, we do what we do because Jesus has commanded us to share His saving grace with the world.

That’s why CMDA exists. CMDA’s vision statement is “transformed doctors, transforming the world.” CMDA gives me the opportunities and the support I need to fulfill my life’s purpose as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Even more than programs, events, or services, CMDA provides the friendships I need to accomplish this purpose.

The Roles of Friendships

There are three types of friendships in which we engage throughout our lives. Knowing our roles in these relationships and the influence, both given and received, helps us minister to others as Jesus commands us to do.

Mutual friendships are perhaps the most numerous and the ones in which we are most comfortable engaging. We laugh and cry with our mutual friends. They have seen us through the good and the bad times. Likewise, we have steadied them through their difficult situations and rejoiced in their weddings, promotions, and awards. In all, our influence on each other is reciprocal. In fact, the power of mutual friends in our lives cannot be over-emphasized, so much so that Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 6 not to partner with or allow those who are not yet saved to influence our daily decisions. CMDA is filled with opportunities for meeting mutual friends.

A student from our local CMDA chapter invited me to their weekly meetings in my first year of medical school. A friendship with another first-year student founded through these meetings led to a weekly prayer time during our second year. Those friendships provided me the spiritual encouragement to not only endure, but grow as I was being introduced to death and suffering in a very real and personal way. We shared victories of patients coming out of the ICU and tears when our patients passed away, and we watched the families, to whom we had grown close, wracked with grief at Christmastime.

CMDA is still providing these friendships through various programs. Campus ministries, such as the one at my medical school, are vital in capturing the hearts of medical students for Jesus during medically and spiritually formative years. CMDA provides resources during residency, commissions for medical specialties, and even friendships for spouses of medical students, residents, and fellows. Whatever your season in your career or spiritual journey, CMDA has mutual friends waiting to welcome you, just as they welcomed me a few years ago.

Mentoring friendships are also very important. These are people whom we revere and whose wisdom we seek to gain. We want them to actively pour into our lives from their lessons learned and inject insight into our situations. Sometimes these are formal meetings for counsel; other times they are a relaxed visit to a coffeehouse, where good advice is shared over a latte. For example, Joshua sat at the feet of Moses for years learning about leadership. He followed Moses as he journeyed up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. He did reconnaissance missions to explore the land of Canaan and reported back to Moses. In turn, it was a natural sequence for Moses to appoint Joshua as leader of the Israelites upon his death. Mentoring friends may come as career mentors from the workplace, former professors, or someone strong in the faith who challenges us to a closer walk with the Lord. Whether prodding us on earthly or spiritual matters, mentoring friends are essential to our personal growth.

CMDA has many avenues through which to pursue biblical mentoring relationships. One of the best places I’ve met powerful mentors in my life is through CMDA’s conferences. Through Global Missions Health Conference, I’ve been able to meet and speak with amazing missionaries who not only inspire me in my own calling, but are available for me to call for advice in my daily walk with the Lord. CMDA also offers a Media Training Course for physicians and medical professionals who want to speak publicly on the critical issues facing our communities. For a more personal and in-depth relationship, CMDA offers life coaches, who assist busy or “stagnated” physicians through weekly phone conversations, in centering their lives on the things they value most. Jesus placed a high priority on teaching His disciples how to live and minister when He returned to heaven, and CMDA is continuing His priority of mentoring through these alternatives today.

Ministry friendships are those in which we influence others and hold them to accountability. These friends may be colleagues who are not yet saved, patients with whom we are sharing the Gospel one visit at a time, or the neighborhood teenager who confides in us about his dreams for the future. In ministry friendships, we challenge others to higher goals, offer encouragement, and, most importantly, point them to a relationship with our Savior. Timothy was a ministry friend for Paul. Likewise, Angie is a ministry friend for me during this time in our lives.

CMDA is ready with many possibilities to help you make ministry friends. Global Health Outreach is always looking for physicians and dentists interested in international short-term medical or dental mission trips. CMDA is also willing to assist you in exploring domestic mission opportunities through becoming a doctor who commits a portion of his or her time, talent, or treasure to the care of the underserved living among us. Finally, regardless of the people with whom you interact, always remember the power of prayer. Each of us is surrounded every day by hurting people who need to hear the Gospel. Some need reminders of Christ’s love and compassion. Others need to hear of His saving grace and forgiveness for the first time. From books to CDs to conferences, CMDA can help the Christian physician grow in his or her ability to share the love of Jesus.

Each of these forms of friendships is vital to our purpose and legacy on earth. It is important to “hang out” and relax with our mutual friends. Nevertheless, we must also recognize the need for mentoring friends as well as ministry friends in our lives. These friendships help keep us balanced and vibrant in our daily walks with the Lord and with those around us.

Friends into Eternity

“ . . . Thank you for this moment, Lord. Go with us as we leave this clinic tonight.” I closed the prayer and patted Angie’s hand. She looked up, her shy eyes a bit brighter. “I’ve been looking for a church,” she said. So I invited her to our next Sunday service.

Three days later, I was overjoyed to see her walk in with her fiancé and teenage daughter. Our pastor greeted them, and we sat together during the service. Our youth director took Angie’s daughter to meet some of the teenagers in the youth group. On our way out, Jessie said she wanted to come to youth group that night and might bring a friend. I bid them farewell until the next Sunday, and there was a song in my heart all the way home.

Why do you do what you do? Our days may be busy with patient visits, meetings, and paperwork, but we must never lose sight of our true purpose here on earth — to preach and heal as Jesus commanded in Luke 10:9. CMDA encourages us to take a stand, and when we do, God opens doors for us to minister to the whole person while also receiving ministry ourselves. Let CMDA help you in this journey to become a transformed doctor transforming the world. 


Julie Griffin, MD